Segments Online Workshops March, April, May, June

Segments online Workshops

The Festival is very grateful to practitioner Sara-Jane Arbury for adjusting to life in lockdown and delivering these workshops on line. Make yourself a cup of tea and imagine you are in a group, and let Sara-Jane’s  instructions gently lead you through a very enjoyable writing session.

Segments is a poetry workshop which gains inspiration from artefacts from Ledbury’s Butcher Row museum, and uses them as springboards for poetry, memories and discussion. The sessions are free, drop-in, and need no former experience. All are welcome. In these lockdown sessions, Sara Jane finds artefacts from her own home and we are finding them very fruitful springboards for poetry-making.

Scroll down (and down, and down – it’s a long post) for March, April and May transcripts.

Segments June Workshop. Theme: Jigsaws or Dissectology

EXERCISE ONE: A warm-up writing exercise called Creative Creatures

There have been numerous articles appearing in the news of animals leaving their usual abodes during lockdown and taking up residence in towns and cities, for example, a herd of mountain goats wandered around Llandudno, eating garden hedges and sleeping in the local churchyard. Here are some pictures from around the world:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2020/apr/22/animals-roaming-streets-coronavirus-lockdown-photos

Write a piece from a creature’s point of view – animal, bird, insect, reptile, fish – during this strange time. What would it say? What changes does it notice? How would it change its behaviour in these new circumstances? What would it do that’s different? What would it think about their environment now? Would it know what is happening? Think about the personality your creature might have, its opinions, thoughts, likes, dislikes, dreams, ambitions, pet hates.

Initially, this will be a piece of free-writing / free flowing writing for 6 minutes. Do not take your pen off the page, just keep going. If you get stuck, repeat the sentence you just wrote until something else comes. When the time is up, you will have some raw material to shape into a poem later. Why not submit your finished poem to the lockdown poems page on the LPF website?

A good resource for free-writing is a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it, she introduces the idea of writing like this every morning – she calls it ‘morning pages’. Here’s a link to Julia Cameron’s morning pages and a short informative film about them:
https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

EXERCISE TWO: The theme for this writing exercise is DISSECTOLOGY or DOING JIGSAW PUZZLES

From Left to Right: John Spilsbury’s “Europe divided into its kingdoms, etc.” (1766); wooden jigsaw pieces cut by hand, a puzzle without a picture, the Guinness record holding 551,232 piece jigsaw by CYM Group, 3D jigsaw puzzle; “whimsy” piece in a wooden jigsaw puzzle.

Sales of jigsaw puzzles have sky-rocketed during lockdown, comparable to the Great Depression of the 1930s. They are a cheap, long-lasting, recyclable form of entertainment, as well as providing excellent stimulation for brain and memory functions. Jigsaw manufacturers are now marketing jigsaw puzzles as ‘screen savers’ and part of the ‘Anti-Screen Revolution’ – they are a prime example of ‘real play’ and powerful tools to build ‘digital resilience’.

John Spilsbury (1739 – 1769), a British cartographer and engraver, is credited as the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle. Spilsbury created such puzzles for educational purposes and called them “Dissected Maps”. He made his first puzzle in 1766 as an educational tool to teach geography. He affixed a world map to wood and carved each country out to create the first puzzle.

There is more information about the history, construction and variations of jigsaw puzzles in Wikipedia (which incidentally has a logo of an incomplete globe made up of jigsaw puzzle pieces – the missing pieces symbolizing the room to add new knowledge) here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jigsaw_puzzle

Information about the health benefits of doing jigsaw puzzles can be found here:
https://classifieds.usatoday.com/uncategorized/the-surprising-benefits-of-puzzle-solving-for-adults/

I was very interested to discover the Benevolent Confraternity of Dissectologists (BCD), a club for followers of Jigsaw Puzzles based in the UK. It’s open to all like-minded enthusiasts world-wide and more information can be found here: https://www.thebcd.co.uk/

The BCD chairman, David Shearer, has set up an accompanying website called The Jigasaurus which is a library/museum of jigsaw puzzles:
http://www.thejigasaurus.com/jigasaurus/main.php

Make notes on the information that you find – your thoughts, feelings, sparked memories, anything you find interesting or unusual, anything that gives you the stirring of inspiration about the theme.

EXERCISE THREE: Writing Jigsaw Puzzle Poetry

Your task is to write a poem inspired by the theme of Jigsaw Puzzles. You may use any of the aforementioned resources as inspiration. Here are some further thought guides and suggestions:

Consider why writing poetry is similar to doing a jigsaw puzzle – you think about each piece of a poem as you put it together; fit words together to create a whole poem; think about the shape and structure of the poem; build the poem up; analyze each piece; play around with words until it all fits together properly; a poem is made up of interlocking and connecting parts…

Former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove described her writing process as “similar to assembling a jigsaw puzzle.”

Read the following poems:

‘Jigsaw Of Life’ by Goldfinch60:
https://mypoeticside.com/show-poem-80043
(Comment from the author: I bought a jigsaw puzzle for my wife hoping it might help her in coming to terms with her dementia – it does keep her more occupied, some of the more meaningless things that she gets involved in. These words came to mind)

‘Sam’s Poem For Jigsaw Puzzles’ by Sam Robinson
https://hope1032.com.au/stories/station-news/2020/surviving-isolation-through-poetry-who-knew-a-man-could-love-jigsaw-puzzles-this-much/
(scroll down to see it and hear him recite it on Hope Radio)

Writing a poem inspired by jigsaw puzzles may lend itself to a particular style and form, for example, the Terza Rima – literally meaning ‘three rhymes’ and, in its most basic form, comprising a series of three-line stanzas with an aba, bcb, cdc, ded etc rhyme scheme. This sets up a chain of interlocking sounds throughout the poem.

The poem, ‘Acquainted With The Night’ by Robert Frost is an example of a terza rima sonnet – 4 three-line stanzas followed by a couplet at the end, aba, bcb, cdc, ded, ee.  More information about writing a Terza Rima poem and the text of Robert Frost’s poem can be found here:
https://classicalpoets.org/2017/01/05/how-to-write-a-terza-rima-with-examples/

You may wish to write a personification poem from the point of view of a jigsaw or puzzle piece. Write your poem imagining the object is ‘alive’ and has the same attributes as a human being. What would it say? Think about the function of the object, where it is situated, what it sees, smells, hears, touches etc. What does it think about/dream about? What are its memories? Ambitions?

Write a poem inspired by the theme that evokes a personal memory for you. What are the ‘interlocking’ pieces or puzzling moments in your life? / What connects to make up ‘the bigger picture’ for you?

Imagine you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle but you have no idea what the finished picture will be. What will appear as you put the pieces together? Can this be a metaphor for something else in your life?

Have a go at writing your Jigsaw Puzzle poem using a structured poetic form, for example, rhyming couplets, a terza rima or terza rima sonnet

And, of course, you can write a poem about the theme in your own way and your own style!
© Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page. And I’m sure the BCD would be very pleased to receive Jigsaw Puzzle poems for their newsletter too! https://www.thebcd.co.uk/

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission?

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation for supporting the Festival’s Community Programme

Poems inspired by this session

Jigsaw, a terza rima sonnet by David Winbow
These are the pieces, place them how you will;
believe you have the power to decide,
but some design will guide your fingers still.

The fit of cut and colour cannot hide
the picture painted long before you knew
that jigsaws bring you close to homicide.

An error to believe all acts are free,
untrammelled, subject only to our will:
acknowledging the other is the key.

These are the pieces, place them how you will,
but some design will guide your fingers, still.

David says: “Thanks for the session. I enjoyed it, as always- probably the best part is hearing what different people make from the same subject.”

Baked Bean Jigsaw in Lockdown by Maggie McGladdery
Shopping- not the same.
Tension rising, can’t find the…whatsit.
Not that way! Go the other way!
Don’t put that there! Don’t touch!
Tension rising…THERE ARE NO BEANS!!
Frustration increasing- can’t cope
Throw in the towel and leave.

Relax- sit down- think about the beans.
Memory stirs and a dust covered box is found.
A box of beans! A plate of orange loveliness.
Spilled out on the table, clean and neat, The pieces each containing half a dozen ovals.

Start to compile the meal
Curved edge of plate- filled with glistening food.
But what’s this?
Tension rising, can’t find the …whatsit.
Not that way! Go the other way!
Don’t put that there!
Tension rising- There are too many beans!
Frustration increasing- can’t cope
– throw in the towel…
Make egg on toast!

My Grandson by Sue Bicknell
I’ve found the missing piece of the picture of my life You fit so perfectly into the irregular vacant space I’d lost this segment so long ago It remained untenanted until you arrived unexpectedly

You made your unforeseen appearance straight into the available gap You interlocked into place and dovetailed Creating a whole beautiful image That is absolute perfection

The missing piece by Christine Hopcutt
I’m lonely, lying in the dark
On the floor, by myself, sad
It isn’t fun, no longer a lark

I am important, needed, a Jack the Lad
Without me no ending, left in suspense
They don’t it yet but they will feel bad

The picture is growing each piece must condense
Into a view of a carriage moving in State
A man stands watching leaning over a fence

The end is in sight, “ well done there mate”
Now they’ve noticed I am not there
They’re frantically searching but no it’s too late

They need me, they want me. “ Look under the chair”
Depression sets in, times up, “ Oh it’s really not fair”


Segments May Workshop. Theme: Bread

EXERCISE ONE: A warm-up writing exercise called Home Alive
This is an exercise in personification. Imagine your abode is speaking to you during lockdown. What would it say? Does it like you being there / living in it? Your choice of decoration? How you live? Does it compare you to past residents who have lived there before you? Think about its opinions, thoughts, likes, dislikes, dreams, ambitions, pet hates. Now write a monologue from the point of view of your home as it addresses you directly.

You might like to listen to the podcast Everything Is Alive featuring interviews with inanimate objects eg: Louis, the Can of Cola; Maeve the Lamppost.
“…hilarious – and strangely moving.” (The Guardian)
https://www.everythingisalive.com/

You may wish to write your monologue in the form of a poem and submit it to the lockdown poems page on the LPF website.

EXERCISE TWO: The theme for this writing exercise is BREAD
There has been a marked shortage of flour and yeast in the shops during lockdown as people embrace the art of baking their own bread! Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods – evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe and Australia shows primitive forms of bread-making. Here are some pictures to get you in the mood for writing about this subject:

A 15th century North Italian bread shop; steps to make unleavened tortillas; baking bread in East Timor; a dough trough used for leavening bread located in Aberdour Castle in Scotland; starter yeast (the ‘mother’); various loaves of bread made by my friend, Paul Baker (aptly named!)

Think about the significance of bread – its religious, social, political and cultural meanings and associations.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Omar Khayyam from ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’
https://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/blog/2011/04/11/omar-khayyam-here-with-a-loaf-of-bread-beneath-the-bough-2/

Think about the words and phrases we use concerning bread – our daily bread; the staff of life; know which side one’s bread is buttered; the best thing since sliced bread; take the bread out of someone’s mouth; earn your bread and butter; bread basket (stomach); living on the breadline; to break bread with someone; being the bread-winner; use your loaf of bread (‘head’ in Cockney Rhyming Slang). The word ‘companion’ comes from Latin com ‘with’ + panis
‘bread’. Medieval bakers used ale barm, the yeast left over from the brewing process, to bake sweet-tasting bread. The leavening agent was called ‘barm’ and its unpredictability gives us the word ‘barmy’.

Think about the words we use when making dough and baking bread – proving, kneading, resting, stretching, folding, feeding the mother… Here’s an article that appeared in the March edition of Ledbury Focus magazine about the trials and tribulations of keeping a sourdough starter by Geraldine Woods-Humphrey (scroll through and find it on P.51):
https://issuu.com/grapevinepublications/docs/ledbury_focus_march_2020_v3

Now read the following poems from the Bread Poetry project based in Bristol. Follow this link and scroll down to read them:
https://www.lukejerram.com/breadpoetry/

‘The Battle To Be A Breadwinner’ by Lizzy Lawrence (She says: My poem is about the pressures of being able to provide and survive as a young, single mother. Although I have come through the other side now, my poem addresses the hard work it took to get there and the sacrifices a teacher makes at the expense of their own children and well-being. I wanted to highlight these issues and dispel myths about teenage mums and people on benefits. The title uses a metaphor for providing – as well as linking to the loaf of bread – it also symbolises a difficult time for me when I couldn’t afford food).

‘Blue Hour’ by Cheryl Pearson (She says: I am interested in exploring different kinds of creativity, and am particularly fascinated by practical creativity such as baking and knitting. A lot of my poems are concerned with where we come from and what we pass on, not just genetically but practically – in this case, a recipe, a craft. The poem is thirteen lines long to represent the baker’s dozen).

EXERCISE THREE: Writing Bread Poetry
Your task is to write a poem inspired by the theme of Bread. You may use any of the aforementioned resources and thought guides as inspiration too. Here are some suggestions:

Write a personification poem from the point of view of a loaf of bread / a breadcrumb / the ‘mother’ starter yeast etc. Write your poem imagining the object is ‘alive’ and has the same attributes as a human being. What would it say? Think about the function of the object, where it is situated, what it sees, smells, hears, touches etc. What does it think about/dream about? What are its memories? What are its ambitions?

Write a poem inspired by the theme that evokes a personal memory for you, for example, Ronnie Corbett’s father was a baker on a night shift. Ronnie’s memories can be read here: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/nov/24/foodanddrink.baking11

Write an ode (love poem) to bread. Make it as OTT as you like!

Write a poem in the style and form of one of the example poems. Think about the form of the poem and how it fits with what the poem is saying, for example, Cheryl Pearson wrote her poem ‘Blue Hour’ in 13 lines (6 couplets + 1 line) to reflect the baker’s dozen. Would you like to have a go at doing that with your poem? Does it suit your poem to have verses? Does it work better using rhyme schemes or in free verse? Think about ‘word music’ and the flow of the poem.

And of course, you may write a poem about the theme in your own way and your own style!

© Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page.

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission? Maybe your warm up exercise 1 is suitable?

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation for supporting the Festival’s Community Programme


Poems inspired by this session (Scroll down for March and April Segments transcripts)

Exercise: House in Lockdown by David Winbow
I see that you are beginning to notice me again. I suppose the isolation helps, as does the sunshine. I always look at my best in sunshine, I think- my crenellations seen best against a blue sky- these things matter to a house, you know. The solid work you did with me in our early days have paid off; I feel the better for it, but I’ve noticed a falling-off, recently. I make allowances, I think, for the rapidity of human decline, but, really, it’s time you braced up a little; you know perfectly well what I am lacking, and there’s no point in prevaricating. At present, it seems all the effort in this relationship is coming from me. I know these contagions can be distressing- I remember the Spanish Flu of 1919- a whole generation of builders and decorators lost. Those were trying times for a house, but let’s cut to the larger picture here. You are just a passing affaire to me, and not the most interesting one, to be frank, and I feel you are just not making the effort. True, my beauty still shines through, but it’s not all down to me! Don’t complain to me about age, or debility, I’ve heard it all before. Others are waiting to take your place, and soon will. Just snap out of it, and we can do wonderful things together.
Yours (not for ever)
The House

Bread by David Winbow
Bread torn from a loaf.
Cheese from the folded paper.
Cold tea from the twist topped bottle.
The cooling engine ticking.
Warmth.

Morning comes grey over the bonnet.
The ghosts of trees find shape.
Bibury’s playing otters.
A day unlike the others.
This is mine.

Give us this day by Gill Garret
(Open Day, Clencher’s Mill)

Except for days like this
when history, briefly resurrected,
leaps into life to catch us unawares,
they’re stilled and silenced now –
wallowers, brayers, bridge trees, tuns.

Alien to our generation,
those names our great grandparents knew,
whose daily bread depended on them –
stone nuts, runners, damsels, shoes.

But in this soundscape of the miller’s world –
the clank of wheel, the scrape of stone –
we haul them back like sacks of grain,
dust them off, reclaim them for the moment –
launder box, penstock, layshaft, flume.

Warm up- Everything is Alive….My House by Maggie Matthews
So! Maggie you and Bill followed a long line of my temporary owners in 1987. Dilapidated and falling apart I had seen better days, much better owners. The Bishop being one of them, leaving most of the Garden to Herefordshire Council, now known as Bishops Meadow. Rumour runs that Orlando  Haines ran a bakery. That needs checking out Maggie. I gave refuge to a poor family, who were unable to look after me properly. No fault of theirs! I am entrusted to you now, good luck with it all!
I wasn’t sure I liked being made into flats, but I’m happy now, I feel lived in and comfortable, like an old pair of slippers with a refreshed soul. I quite like the conservatory and love the garden. I really enjoy prodding you into maintenance when the need arises.
I hope I am being kind to you. I love having you here, as much as you seem to love living within my welcoming walls.

Waste not Want Not by Maggie Matthews
You’ve left me in the bread bin
Unloved and going stale.
What’s this? Cold tea being poured all over me Tanning my pale body brown Melted butter, yummy, molasses scrumpy And now you are making me fruity!
And watch out! Here comes cinnamon
To spice me up a bit.
Again I’m oven baked
Again I wrap the home
With comfort and flavour expectation
I hear the children shout
There’s Bread Pudding about!

[From Maggie: “Quite by accident 13 lines. The bakers’ dozen!”]

Home Alive by Maggie McGladdery
We’ve been together now for quite some time, and we seem to rub along quite well.
You do seem to be with me quite a lot at the moment and the living room is getting more lived in! I am really pleased about the dining room, – that isn’t one any more. The table in the kitchen I has been used for eating for a while, and so this poor neglected room, full of ……stuff, was left to fill with dust, carpet mites and boxes. Your efforts to clear, rearrange and repurpose have been really appreciated. It means that now you are in and out of this part of me more often and the need to scratch the itch has gone.
The products of activity in this room are now being distributed elsewhere, but please be careful how and where you bang in the next nail for their display!
Talking of cleaning, there seems to be more of it elsewhere in my insides! Sorting of contents does help me breathe slightly better, though the disturbed spiders do tickle somewhat!
My surroundings also seem a little more cared for. Thank you for the flowers, they are always welcome! You both appear to work with a will, and I quite enjoyed the power wash cleaning of my approaches. However, not many seem to be arriving to appreciate it, except men in a hurry, carrying boxes and parcels. My bell is silent, apart from these men arriving, but they never come over the threshold.
What happened to the younger folk who used to roam my interior, and the regular visits on a Friday from one of them to my garage? It’s still a hive of activity, but no visitors or small person learning how to put one metal bit together with another.
Is this how it’s going to be now – our new normal? It’s pleasant enough, but I do miss the occasional party with all the energy, music and excitement to raise the rafters! Maybe soon.

The Motherload by Maggie McGladdery
The mother, whose children have grown
and now flown
the nest of the oven and home,
continues to grow with the flower of youth and is pregnant with need and the flour of the seed producing and proving her worth.

How Heavy is Bread? by Maggie McGladdery
Developing taste; it rises with age,
To the sour, the crust and the seed.
This love of the dough, containing the grain Proves costly on hip and on thigh.
Then heavily pounding the lanes and the streets, Face rising with heat, Exhaustion that leads To the need for the treat Of fresh bread and butter and jam.

A New Cough by Malcolm White

Mum checks a loaf for the use-by date.
Her son looks on. He looks about eight.

Both are looking a picture of health,
an aisle to themselves is newfound wealth.

As an elderly couple approach
mum nods to her son – he’s been well coached.

He begins to persistently cough.
Could be Covid! The couple are off!

Quiet again, he catches my eye.
I smile, wink – I’ve spotted his lie.

He laughs, I laugh, our hands to our throats
as mum moves on to muesli and oats.

My House in Lockdown by Gill Betts
You have made changes to me.
Do I like them? Do I not?
All that you have done, you have done with thought and care.
That means a lot to me.

Major changes happened, I felt scared.
Floors removed, ceilings taken down, stability shaken.
Dust and dirt everywhere.  I could not breathe.
My equilibrium shattered.  Life as I knew it gone.

Then demolition ceased and reconstruction followed.
Slowly I could breathe again, equilibrium restored.
Normality returned, but life was not the same.
A changed reality. A new normal.

Do I like it? Do I not?

Temptation – An Ode to Bread by Gill Betts
Oh bread! How I love you.
Your crusty body and your soft inside.
I look with longing.  I am tempted.

The roundness of your form draws me towards you,
Calling, like a Siren on the rocks.
As I come near, I feel your warmth.

Taking you in my hands, desire floods my body.
Your heady aroma tantalises, pulls me in.
I am tempted.  I cannot resist.

Pressing my mouth against your sun-kissed skin,
The urge to devour you overwhelms me.
I succumb, as Eve did with the apple.

I am consumed by you, and you by me.

Life Paten by Ros Trafford-Roberts
My childhood bread of life
was the days of crossover aprons
and rolled-up sleeves –
Bread proving on the window sill
Wiping my fingers round the bowl and eating the dough, Uncooked bread will damage your stomach Said my mother.

My girlhood bread of life
Was leaving the safe and familiar
And testing a different love on foreign shores
Bread proving on the window sill
And grabbing at life impatiently, hungrily, Uncooked bread will damage your stomach Said my mother.

My bridal bread of life
Was finding a rock in my shipwreck,
Harbouring in the warm sunlight
Bread proving on the window sill
Finding the utterness of motherhood,
Enfoldingness of love.

My flowering in life
Was becoming a priest
Holding the searing pain and ecstasy
In others’ lives
Bread proving on the window sill
Holding the body of Christ in my hands from the paten And somewhere in my head, resolution

Uncooked bread will damage your health,
said my mother.


Segments April Workshop. Theme: The Vinyl Revolution!

Welcome to the April meeting of Segments! Fifteen people met on 15 April, many had never used zoom before,

and it all went without a hitch! Many thanks go to Sara Jane Arbury who held the group in her characteristic energetic style. Here follows the transcript of the session, which you can follow at home. If you wish to attend any of the forthcoming sessions (dates on the poster at the bottom of the page), please get in touch with the Festival Manager, below.

Segments is a regular poetry workshop which normally gains inspiration from artefacts from Ledbury’s Butcher Row museum, and uses them as springboards for poetry, memories and discussion. This week, however, Sara Jane has mined her own artefacts, and provided pictures of her trusty music players over the ages! The sessions are free, drop-in, and need no former experience. All are welcome.

EXERCISE ONE: A warm-up writing exercise called A Window Into Our Lives

Position yourself by a window and describe the view you can see in detail. It is important you really study the view and absorb yourself in it. Your description must include something near to you; something in the distance; something you haven’t noticed before; something that isn’t there – be as imaginative as you like about this!

If you want to time this exercise, give yourself 10 minutes.

EXERCISE TWO: As it would have been World Record Store Day on Saturday 18th April (now postponed until 20th June 2020), the theme for this writing exercise is THE VINYL REVOLUTION / MUSIC MACHINES

Here are some pictures of my record player, Sony Walkman, CD player and iPod, as well as some LP records including my mum’s Me and my Shadows (Cliff Richard and the Shadows) record from 1960, my Nan’s 1957 yellow vinyl LP Holiday in Italy and the original movie soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever (1977)!

Make notes about these items – your thoughts, feelings, memories that are evoked by the items and your associations with the theme in general.

Now read the following poems: Ode To The Vinyl Record – Thomas R. Smith https://wordsfortheyear.com/2015/11/01/ode-to-the-vinyl-record-by-thomas-r-smith/ Your Record Store – Liz Ahl https://lizahl.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/a-poem-for-record-store-day-2015/ and Ode To A Record Player – John Neesan http://www.teenink.com/poetry/all/article/68705/Ode-to-a-Record-Player/

EXERCISE THREE: Writing About THE VINYL REVOLUTION / MUSIC MACHINES

Your task is to write a poem inspired by the items and/or the theme. Here are some suggestions:

Write a personification poem from the point of view of one of the items. Write your poem imagining the object is ‘alive’ and has the same attributes as a human being. What would it say? Think about the function of the object, where it is situated, what it sees, smells, hears, touches etc. What does it think about/dream about? What are its memories? What are its ambitions?

Write a poem inspired by the items and/or theme that evokes a personal memory for you.

Write an ode (love poem) to one of the items. Make it as over-the-top as you like!

Write a poem in the style and form of one of the example poems. Think about the form of the poem and how it fits with what the poem is saying. Does it suit the poem to have verses? Does it work better using rhyme schemes or in free verse?

Write a poem about the items and/or the theme in your own way and your own style!

© Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page.

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission? Maybe your warm up exercise 1 is suitable?

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation


Poetry inspired by the session (Scroll down for March Segments transcript)

Christine Hopcutt
We always had a record player in my home
A red dancette player in a smart cream case
It sat on the sideboard in the centre, pride of place
The records neatly in their sleeves in order on a shelf

The music in order of seniority in the house
My Dads selections first of course, then Mums
Followed by me as oldest of us kids
And last not least my brother the smallest of our crew.

My Father loved classical,  Beethoven, Brahms and Liszt
The music rising, falling echoing round the house
Some of it somber, dark and gloomy,  slow and ponderous
Others light and flutey the notes dancing round the walls.

My Mother preferred musicals, anything with a tune
The King and I, Oklahoma, South Pacific to name but a few
We often heard her singing, mostly out of time
Lyrics always perfect,  melody not always known.

My music had a beat,  repetitive, romantic to my ears
Yearning for The Beatles, The Searchers,  Singing Blue Jeans, The Move
I could see them, smell them, even touch them if I tried
The scratchy tinny noise they made  was surely just for me?

Last there was my brother the rebel in the clan
Screeching sound, the record bouncing off the turntable
No tune, just noise, floors, walls, tumultuous,  shaking
Along with his limbs and his long  haired shaggy  head

WORLD RECORD STORE DAY by Gill B
Lockdown has unlocked memories
Disembowled boxes of photos, books and vinyl.
It is vinyl that holds the masterkey.
But what I have kept prompts hurt, sharp hurt
At what I have lost.

Moving house moved me to monstrous acts.
Downsizing, decluttering, disposing, dissembling.
The things I lost!
A list and a litany too long to lament.

The vinyl picks at my losses, unravels my thoughts
Which land on the boxes and boxes of audio cassettes
I dispatched to landfill.
Memories and madness and mixtapes
All gone.

Eradicated in an orgy of efficiency
Consigned to rot in the ground and unravel in the breeze.
The carefully inked inlay cards will decompose
Matching my decomposure when I threw them away.

What was I thinking?
New house, new start.
The past is the past.
Thank God I kept the vinyl.
The past is who we are.

Remember by Jayne Arnott
It took so long to save, so many sixpences
that’s how much I coveted your perfect form,
I knew inside your cover and your sleeve
lay  paradise in shining, jet black vinyl
such promise, such hope, oh such allure.

Between the finger tips of both my hands
I held the passport to my teenage self,
my heartbeat racing as I laid you down
tenderly on the spinning turntable,
and my trembling hand lowered the needle.

You’re winding me up by Perry Walker
I am black.
Black my pebble-dashed exterior. Black the records I play for you. Your choice, your taste, your terrible taste, the taste that you lacked.
I am silver. Silver my one arm, silver my needle, silver my deck.
In my day, and don’t you forget it, I was à la mode, I was high tech.
But above all I am black, black of heart, black of soul.
Black because I am the exile in the attic, in this dark hole.
You shit.

Dury’s Clout by Malcolm Whitehead
In a London pub in seventy-three
‘e limped out onto stage, just five foot three.

Polio damage right down ‘is left side
Oi you! Look at me! I’m not gonna hide.

Each live performance began wiv a bang,
fearless lyrics made from old London slang.

Certainly damaged but far far from dead,
Kilburn High Roads followed by those Blockheads.

That polio bridge had taken its toll
but not of sex…nor drugs….nor rock and roll.

Record Players by David Winbow
They have no dignity, these Johnny-come- latelies,
no presence- mere plastic- no Master’s Voice.
No sneaking into the front-room, when it isn’t even Sunday
to wind that plated handle.
Just constant noise.
No sense of occasion, these “ instant” devices-
you could be anywhere;
no intent, anticipation,
it’s just there!
So polish the Victrola, let it roll-
open the doors, unpack the horn, again,
Select a needle (it must be new), and then
turn back the heavy carpet, if you choose
ready for a slow Sinatra schmooze.
Wipe the wax disc (or is it Bakelite?)
Let Frank Crumit rip, into the night-
“Abdul A Bulbul”- still those words live on,
then to Frank’s finale, the Prune Song.
The Inkspots once again, “Saint Loius Blues”
This nickel-plated sound is what I choose

Life’s Record by Ian Rabjohns
This is not a look at scientific progress,
more a bio-study of my auditory decline.
There is no sign hanging there to say where
this all began but memory stores it all.
The brain has it in that vast record can.

The 78, that breakable plate so long revered;
we stood there, take after take, the cold nave,
a few chosen boys and the older men.
No rave this just the tired choir before
the Christmas boost, no glossy cover, 1954!
brown paper and our name, I was only ten.

It went from there to Ronnie Scott’s
Beatles, jazz  dives, learning clarinet
to emulate the hot licks of the time.
Monty Sunshine, Mozart too was there.
Those discs collected scratches, wrinkles
as the owner did, and all   things    changed—

–that value lost its place, the object lost its face
became degraded, small, then seemed to have
no place at all, lost in some cloud where
like an apple it got plucked, eaten, core
tossed back on high until the random
sequence called  it for another try.

Now in age I’ve travelled round that ring
of tape, CD,  and all the other things.
They’ve had their day, they’ve played their part.
I’m going round an old refrain; with Christmas come.
Made a new case for my memories, cleaned them up
and hear again that magic crackle start.

Just for the record – waving and drowning by Grahame Rourke
Spinning memories across the collapsing
chasms of spent time
A running groove spiralling ever closer to silence
The scars of bops and carefree touch
Biographical graffiti, tattoos, deeply etched
Across the highs and lows of jet black terrain
The wounds scratchy, harsh, jarring
Record, bear witness and seemingly conspire
All the same

Adorned in their slinky iconic vests
The recorded are ordered and horded
Into treasured libraries of biography
Stored in some unemployed space
Collections of recollections collecting dust
Until they can be let go round again.

Vinyl by Susana Harthill
A loose, light sleeve holds
a flat round disc, generally black.
A long, narrow cut
swirling round and around
so we can groove
to Motown, Mambo or Mafioso Rap –
in a pop revolution
with collector potential
delivering the strains of a musical score
with genius lyrics right there, at its core.

A Window Into Our Lives by Maggie Matthews
In the window are two butterfly plants beginning their new season’s growth, and in my hyacinth vase an avocado stone soaking in hope of germination. Halfway up the window frame is a stained glass plaque of deer in a woodland scene reminding me of mother. Beyond the dominating, but very precious wall, (as it protects me and my home from floods) are a couple of lime trees bursting into leaf. Making me thankful that it is spring and summer we are going into and no winter. Beyond and across the park by the riverside Beech and Copper Beech are showing their promise of summer glory.
Maggie Matthews

In Celebration Of World Record Shop Day by Maggie Matthews
We had a Music Centre,
It was long and sleek and flat,
Appearing atop the lid an unseen hand
Did put “insanity is hereditary-You Get it From Your Kids”
I hear myself repeating words my mother voiced before
Too LOUD, TURN IT DOWN, and I CAN’T UNDERSTAND THE WORDS

The record collection grows,
and diminishes too as the kids leave home.
Leaving only Jacque Loussier’s Play Bach, and a solitary
Vamos a Ver, an aborted attempt at Spanish

Our taste in music shifts to classical and Jazz
And a collection of cassette tapes emerges
Successfully stretching and contorting sound,
Unlike the Spanish course staying pristine, aborted again

My Alexa friend now plays to me,
And if asked tells me a joke!
I’m waiting for the answer back
When I order her to Stop!

My iPad offers me the Spanish course,
and I’m on to lesson 5
I get a daily reminder to carry on and strive

Old Phones by Jenny Ridout (in the same vein as old record players)
One fell into the toilet,
As I was sexually assaulted
In the ladies’ locker room,
While I was working in Wales.

On was a knockoff
Like a Blackberry.
Its files got corrupted,
And I lost all my files.

One got a scratched screen,
As it fell as I got out of the car
When I arrived at a job interview.
I’d just got it a new battery.

My first one is still going strong.
There’s no camera, but does have snake.
It’s had new buttons and a Tigger cover.
Mum now uses it for texts and calls.

My current one is second hand.
My father-in-law’s cast off.
He has to have the latest model.
I’m just happy to have one that works.


March Segments workshop which would have taken place on Wednesday 18th March in Ledbury’s Burgage Hall

EXERCISE ONE: A warm-up writing exercise – nothing too major – just a quick exercise to wake your brain and get your pens moving. It’s called the Ten-to-One Story.

Pick a story title from the list (or choose a random number between 1 and 100, pick that title and use it for your story).

Write the title you are using at the top of your paper. Now write your story. But there are rules! Your story must only have ten sentences. The first sentence must have exactly ten words. The second must have nine, the third must have eight, and so on, until the final sentence only has one word.

Now choose a different title and try writing a One-To-Ten Story or even a Twenty-To-One Story!

This exercise forces you to be aware of the words that you use, the impact of each one and the techniques of editing.

With thanks to The Floor Is Lava – Ivan Brett.

EXERCISE TWO: The theme for this poetry exercise is LIGHTING.

We would have examined items from The Butcher Row House Museum for this exercise. Instead I have attached some pictures of lighting and old lamps for you to look at and gain inspiration for your writing. Make notes about the items – your thoughts, feelings, memories that are evoked by the items and your associations with the theme in general.

Clockwise from top left: Arabian Lamp, Diwali lights, Gas Lamp-post, Scooter Lights, Rusty Kerosene Lamp, Miners’ Lamps, Old Lamps

Now read the following poems: The Lights by Miriam Nash (scroll down link) ; A Thousand Hours by Paul Farley; Power Cut by Victoria Gatehouse, Power Cut follows a poetic form of 8 stanzas – 3 lines in Stanza 1, 2 lines in Stanza 2, 3 lines in Stanza 3 and so on in this alternating pattern to the end of the poem.  

EXERCISE THREE: Writing About LIGHTING

Your task is to write a poem inspired by the items and/or the theme. Here are some suggestions:

Write a personification poem from the point of view of an item. Write your poem imagining the object is ‘alive’ and has the same attributes as a human being. What would it say? Think about the function of the object, where it is situated, what it sees, smells, hears, touches etc. What does it think about/dream about? What are its memories? What are its ambitions?

Write a poem inspired by the theme that evokes a personal memory for you.

Write a poem in the style and form of one of the example poems.

Write a poem about the items and/or the theme in your own way and your own style!

© Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page.

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission?

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation


Poetry inspired by the session…..

LIGHTING by Gill B
You lit up my life and you lightened my load.
You flickered and sizzled, you burnt my eyes.
You were constant.
You were unrelenting.
You made me shine brightly, I glowed for you.
I was a rabbit in your spotlight, a singed moth.
I was star-struck.
I was on fire.

But stars explode and candles gutter.
Fire goes out and lighters stutter.
Burnt finger throb and then go numb.
Burnt eyes water burnt eardrums hum.
You made me flare up then stole my heat.
You blanketed my heart then stifled its beat.
You shine and shone you shone and shine.
You kindled your warmth, extinguished mine.
You lit up my life and you lightened my soul
Then doused me entirely then left me unwhole.

Lighting up Lives by Susana Harthill
Never, in all my speculating, did I ever envisage this –
UK, Easter morning: day nineteen of this savage lockdown.
I think of Giles, patron saint of outcasts –
citizens without high office, status or power.
When I stop thinking I cry,
tired of trusting, believing, praying.
Tired of feeling guilty,
for not being there:
Libya, Spain.
Despair.

Hope,
it’s antonym.
Do we dare?
If nothing other, and
we care, this we must –
stand united for our vulnerable; for
the sick, and all key workers, whom
we owe so much! In rainbow colours
we show our love, clapping hands while at
safe distance, as Capt. Tom marks time in paces…
He’s gone the distance! Brought some smiles to sombre faces.

LIGHT by David Winbow
I miss the smell of evening light,
hot metal, oil and glass,
our heads bent into its pool
for knitting, homework, news.
The splinter-groups of flames between the bars,
glow behind Light, Luxembourg, and Home.
Shadows on the stairs.
Candles pinched for fear of fire – the tang of smoke.
Then dark.

I miss the sound of Sunday light,
Tilley-hissing over pitch-pine pews, harmonium,
Sundaybest, and surreptitious-throatsweet,
Moody and Sankey.
“She’s no better than she should be either”
“Hush – least said”
Pulpit retribution roaring. Bike lights home.
Then dark.

Half-light by Maggie Sanderson
Half-light across a Herefordshire field
A crisp cleanness in the air.
A dewy dampness around my toes
Adds a quickness to our morning walk.

My dog eagerly leads the way,
Stopping to ‘point’, ceasing to play.
The birds chatter, squawks filling the air
A kaleidoscope of colour transforms the sky.

Blush pinks, apricots, steely grey
A contrast against the solid shapes of branches and leaves
My senses sharpen, then suddenly
The day moves from mystery to mundane.